startups: New-age firms adopt pet-friendly policies to better retain talent

If your furry friend has ingested some harmful insect or has an upset stomach or is otherwise indisposed while you are at your workplace, then help is just a call away.

For pet owners at Chennai-based SaaS firm Chargebee, the company has rolled out telehealth services for pets to help employees get quick animal-related advice in times of crisis.

And, Chargebee is not just the only one.

New-age companies are going the extra mile to have pet-friendly workplaces by walking the talk on pet benefits. Pet insurance, telehealth services, pet adoption leaves, and wellness leaves are some of the initiatives companies such Chargebee, Meesho, Powerplay, Benefits, and Deloitte have rolled out for their employees.

The idea is to not just be more empathetic to the employees who are pet owners but also to provide them with differentiated benefits in a highly competitive talent market. Insurance companies such as Policybazaar, Plum, and Toffee Insurance are witnessing high demand for pet insurance.

Bengaluru-based Powerplay is providing pet parents with insurance coverage worth Rs. 1.5 lakh, including hospitalization cover, surgery expenses, accidental fracture, OPD expenses, terminal illness, and long-term care.

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“For pet owners, there is no difference between their children and pets. So, we wanted to give them the same insurance benefits that we have for other family members,” Iesh Dixit, cofounder of the construction management software company, told ET. “Medical treatment for animals can be expensive and we wanted our employees to have coverage in such cases.”

Such policies are gaining quick traction among the employees, too.

Nearly 30 people have already opted for the service, which is generally offered as an add-on with group health insurance, Dixit said.

Insurtech firm Toffee Insurance, which co-creates products with insurance companies, is also seeing an uptick in pet insurance.

“Some months back, we struck our first partnership with a company that specifically wanted pet insurance. A lot of corporates are showing interest in it,” Nishant Jain, Toffee Insurance’s cofounder, told ET. “We’ve sold about 100 policies so far and are in the process of getting 200-odd policies issued this month.”

Insurance policies are not where the bucks stop.

Plum, an insurance-tech company, has rolled out telehealth consultations for pets. Firms across hospitality, e-commerce, and SaaS partner with Plum for insurance services, and 10% of them have actively opted for pet telehealth services, said Jayanth Ganapathy, director of healthcare at Plum. The company is getting 20 new inquiries daily.

“We’re seeing a lot of demand for it. Pet owners get anxious when their pets get sick, more so as they are unable to express themselves. When a vet visit isn’t instantly possible, a teleconsultation service with a licensed vet is, which most often gives them a quick resolution,” Ganapathy said.

Plum is in the process of partnering with service providers for corporates to provide post-consultation services for employees’ pets through nutrition consultation, and home delivery of medicines, among others.

Policybazaar is seeing interest from consumer internet companies, IT, and banking firms for pet insurance, said Raghuveer Mallik, the company’s business head for corporate insurance.

“From literally zero such instances a couple of years ago, we pitched to some eight clients last year. A food tech major and an edtech biggie are among our clients, and we are seeing more demand coming in,” Mallik told ET.

Other firms are allowing employees to take leave for their pets.

Earlier this year, Bengaluru-headquartered Meesho rolled out a pet-adoption policy, allowing new pet parents one week of leave to bond with their pets and help them get settled in. Wellness platform Nova Benefits has also rolled out a pet-care policy under which employees can take unlimited leaves if their pet is unwell or has to undergo surgery.

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